Right now it is 7 pm and I am sitting in a beautiful home in the village of Koh K’sach Tonlea, with a Cambodian family who welcomed me with open arms.
We’ve all finished dinner, although my mother served me a half hour before the rest of the family. They treat me like a guest, always making sure I am comfortable but giving me my space. Now the whole family relaxes for the rest of the evening, leaving behind the long day of work.
My older brothers lie in hammocks on their smartphones, my parents sit together on their bed, and my sister holds her 7-month-old baby. The TV is on, but no one really watches it. My sister teaches me how to do my laundry: we periodically go to the machine together to complete each step. It is quiet, but a few mellow conversations fill the space.
Family members walk by and wave to the baby or make him laugh. This baby unites the family in laughter; they joyfully watch him fill with delight at a simple facial expression or sound. I sit in the same plastic chair where I eat all meals, and make myself busy by reading, journaling, or watching a Cambodian soap opera that constantly plays on the TV. Sometimes my sister asks me a question in her broken (yet certainly impressive) English, but the language barrier prevents me from conversing with anyone else.
I simply sit and observe this family’s peaceful evening. Even on my fifth night here, I still feel slightly uncomfortable and a little out of place. However, for just one week, I am a part of this family. They have opened their home to me and allowed me to further immerse myself in a beautiful culture and connect with loving people. As I sit here basking in the pleasant calmness of Koh K’sach Tonlea, I feel a deep gratitude for my Cambodian family.